Saturday, June 29, 2013

Zatannurday: Northern Belle Cosplay

This week I found Northern Belle Cosplay on Facebook.
She is more famous for her various interpretations of Marvel's Rogue, but she does other cosplays as well.  Including a kick ass Zatanna.

Here are some of my faves.

Photography by Clint Adam Smyth

I think that this one is my favorite.
Photography by Clint Adam Smyth
Photography by Scott McCutcheon, Norm Cheung 
Photography: Robert Brown, Norm Cheung P.C.

You can also find her at

Stop by her Facebook page.  She will have some prints up soon.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Why Plagiarism is a problem

So I wasn't going to go on (and on) about this, but I had a number things happen this morning that made me rethink it.  For starters I read this posting in my feed today about how plagiarism is a huge issue in the novel writing business.

Then there was an unrelated Facebook posting about reporting plagiarism and piracy when you see it (I am not at liberty to link that though).

And this one has been sitting in my drafts now for a bit.

Then to top it all off I got a renewal notice today at work that my subscription to Turnitin was updated.

One thing we should do though is talk about what plagiarism is and what it means to the gaming community.
Look, there is no why to gloss this over, plagiarism is theft. It is the theft of ideas, or expressions or words and it still theft even if you can't touch it or feel it. It is intellectually dishonest and frankly arrogant.  
Turnitin actually has a nice infographic on the various types of plagiarism and how prominent they are in academics (the data they have).

The types of abuse we see most often are of the CTRL-C and Mashup variety (and I can think of a few cases of the 404 Error type).

We have had our share in the RPG world of late. So for the Tracey Alley types she used something and then tried to pass it off as her own.  If you are smart you there two things going on here. There is the willful use of someone else's ideas AND the arrogant presumption that it was ok to do so because no one was watching.   Somewhere below that is the Mykal Lakim types that try to pass of someone else's work as their own and then stubbornly and arrogantly defends their rights to do so. Where you might argue that in the first case she "forgot" (which I don't buy) where the map and names came from, in the second there is art and text lifted right out of other peoples work.  The Jim Shipmans of the world might be the worse, taking the material from multitudes of others and passing it off not only as his own, but selling it as his own against the repeated requests of the IP owners.

Now bringing these to light is never a good thing really. It causes animosity and even ends up putting money in the pockets of the people selling stolen goods.  Hell I have to admit I have wanted to shell out the bucks for a copy of Lakim's Vampire book just to see how bad it really is.  But I am loathe to give him any money.

The accusations of being an "internet bully" also come up.  To that I say, what else do we have? Getting the word out is the only recourse a fan has. If the above linked authors (and more I know personally) are to be believed they are very appreciative of the negative attention thrown on the thief.   Plus I have purchased books from authors and game designers because their material had been stolen as a show of support.  I have this blog and a little bit of cash to throw at the problem.

But people around here will say, but what about the OSR? Haven't they based their entire existence on plagiarism of one level or another? Well I do believe in Intellectual Property (and Intellectual Capital) but I also believe in community.  The OSR as a whole is a community using a set rules release specifically for the purposes of sharing and publishing your own materials based on it. This isn't a contradiction. Now I do feel that some products out there are a little too close to the source material. I also feel we simply do not need another retroclone to play the exact same game we have been playing for years.  But I also know market realities.  I could have released my Witch book for example using a proprietary game system and my sales would have been about 5% of what they were.  The OGL does the heavy lifting it also brings in an audience.

Sometimes I feel this is often more Quixotic than some of my other crusades or activism. And I am atheist that grew up in the bible belt, so you would think I'd know a hopeless cause when I see one.

I don't know. What are your thoughts?
Do I have a point or should I just go back to my windmills?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts

Finally picked up Dyson's Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts (MT&DP) is an Old-school reference for all things Magic-user.
The book is designed with what I call "Basic Era" in mind, so the rules from right around 1979-1981 where "elf" is a class, not just a race. Overtly it is designed for Labyrinth Lord.  That being said it is still compatible in spirit to 99% of all the OSR and books from that time.

The book itself is 6"x9", black and white interior and 161 pages.  So for a "Class" book there is a lot here.  There are 5 Chapters covering Classes, Spells, Magic Items, Monsters and a section on using this book with the "Advanced Era" books (and their clones), along with an Introduction and OGL page.

The introduction covers the basics.  What this books, what it is for and it's very, very open OGL declaration.

Chapter 1 is the heart of this book really.  It details 13 Magic using classes. The two two core classes, Cleric and Magic-User (Wizard) and 11 new classes.
From the product page:

  • Cleric (warrior-priests)
  • Wizard (classic magic-users with 10 levels of spells)
  • Elven Swordmage (elves from the core rules – arcane warriors)
  • Elven Warder (wilderness elves, guardians of their kin)
  • Enchanter (artists, con-men, and masters of… duh… enchantments)
  • Fleshcrafter (twisted magic-users that work with flesh)
  • Healer (compassionate and tough hearth-healers)
  • Inquisitor (ecclesiastic investigators and master intimidators)
  • Merchant Prince (elite merchants with spellcasting support)
  • Necromancer (you know exactly what these guys do)
  • Pact-Bound (magic-users who sell their souls for power)
  • Theurge (divine casters who learn from liturgical texts)
  • Unseen (thieves with an innate knack for magic)

Clerics are as you know them, but Magic-Users are now Wizards (since everyone here is a magic user) and they get 10 levels of spells.  The "Elven" classes replace the "Elf" class in the book.  The others are as they are described, but there is more (much more) to them than re-skinned Magic-Users (not that there is anything wrong with wrong that).  The classes are re-cast with many new spells, some powers (but nothing out of whack with Basic Era) and often different hit-dice and altered saving throws.
Nearly a third of the book is made up in these new classes.

Chapter 2 covers all the spells.  Spells are listed alphabetically with class and level for each spell noted (like newer 3.x Era products).   There are a lot of spells here too.  Many have been seen in other products, but some are new. In any case they are a welcome addition.
This section makes up slight more than a third of the book.

The last three chapters take up the last third or so of the book.
Chapter 3 covers Magic items. There are 28 new magic items with these spellcasters in mind.
Chapter 4 covers some magical creatures.  These are monsters listed in many of the new spells for summoning.  There are not a lot, but needed.
Chapter 5 is the Advanced Edition conversion materials. It covers HD changes, racial limits and multi-class options.

So what are my thoughts.  Well you get a lot of material in 160+ pages to be honest.  At 10 bucks it is a good price.  For me it is worth it for the classes.  Sure we have seen variations of these over the years, but it is here all in one place and they all work well together.  The spells are good.  At first I balked at 10th level spells, but really they are for the most part other people's 9th level spells, so they work for me.

The magic items are nice, but for me the value is in the classes and the spells.

Who should buy this?  If you play old-school games and enjoy playing different sorts of Magic-Users then this is a must have book.  If you are looking to expand your class offerings or even add a few new spells then  this is also a good choice. Personally I think it is a great book and I am glad I picked it up.

Does it Play Nice with The Witch?
Honestly I debated doing this section since it is tacky really to use a review to pimp your own product.  But in this case I decided to do it for the simple reason that people who liked my book will find things to like in this book as well.  MT&DP works great with the Witch.  The obvious and easy cross-over are the spells.  Spells from one book can be used EASILY with the other.   So easy I would consider even putting up a list of the Witch book spells with the spell levels of the various classes.
There is some of that now for the Wizard and the Cleric, but the rest of the classes too.  In terms of classes the Pact Bound is closest in theme to the witch, so what is true for one is true for the other.
In fact you could take the Pact Bound and turn it into a Witch Tradition, say the Pact Bound Tradition.   The Pact Bound's "Twisted Gift" becomes the The Witch's "Occult Power".

I like that Dyson did more or less the same thing with the Wizard that I did in my book.  No surprises at all, it seems like the logical progression.

So I will say this. If you liked and use my book in your games, then this is a great book to have.  There is a enough overlap to make them complementary but not so much that you think you are buying the same materials twice.

Of course if you are reading this because you own MT&DP and don't yet have the Witch, then it would be a 5 bucks well spent!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

White Dwarf Wed...ah damn!

I forgot today is Wednesday.  I have been rushing around all day thinking it was Thursday.
My next term starts on Monday and I still have three more tests to write.

Maybe later tonight.

Cheeses from Around the World

Over at Rather Gamey Ark has collected a list of over 300 art, rpg, old-school and geekery blogs.

Stop by and see his impressive list!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Magic for Savage Worlds

Hey all!

What do you  all say is the best magic supplement, or supplement that features as lot of magic, for Savage Worlds?

I am doing some research and not quite sure where to start yet.

Review: Crypts & Things

Crypts & Things is one of those games that has been sitting in my "to be read" pile forever.  It is an Old School game built off of Swords & Wizardry.  Some of the material is familiar to anyone that has played S&W or any of the various D&D/Retro-clone games.  Where C&T differs is in scope (what the characters can eventually do vs what the creatures can already do) and tone.  C&T is very much "Conan vs. The Horrors".  It tries to go after the same ethos as say Dungeon Crawl Classics or Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  I think though it succeeds where those two games fail with me because it still assumes that the characters, rough cut as they are, are still something of a hero.

The game begins with the same basic info on Abilities found in all old-school games.  We get to classes.  Here there are some changes.  The Barbarian is a core class for example.  The Magic-User and Cleric are now rolled into a Magician, which is not a bad change really.  They are stronger than their OSR counterparts (d6 HD vs the more common d4).  The Magician also can channel White, Grey or black magic; so effectively 3 classes. The other classes are Fighter and Thief.  If you don't like Clerics (as a seperate class), well this is your game.

Hit points are also handled differently in C&T. It is less health and more a measure of health, will, and determination to live. Honestly it is the same as a house rule I used to use back in the day.

There is a completely old-school Random Life Events table (which, like most everything in this book, can be used with other games).There are a few pages on equipment, on styles of play and about 20 pages of spells.
Additionally there is a minimalist Sanity mechanic that I thinks works rather well.  I am a huge critic of sanity mechanics in RPGs and I feel that most never get it right, especially in a heroics-based rpg.  While there is a lot of room for interpretation in these rules, the gist of the rules are good.  I can certainly say I don't hate this mechanic.

The rest of the book (about 3/5 ths) is devoted to the game master or Crypt Keeper. This includes a little bit about the assumed game world, a pastiche of Howard, Lovecraft, Smith, Moorcock and other Appendix N luminaries.  Normally I scoff at this, but here it works rather well.  More to point it can also be ignored or added as needed since it doesn't take up a lot of space.
Next we have Treasure. Like many games of this sort there is not a lot of magic items.  Indeed there are only 20 total; designed to be rare and special.
After that is the monster listings.  This is what really sets this game above and beyond it's peers.  There are plenty of monsters here both new and old.  There is also a monster creation section.
We end the main book with a sample adventure.
13 Appendices follow that would work for any game and finally a great looking character sheet.

What is Crypts & Things good for?
It is a great addition to any S&W game for starters.  Get it for the monsters alone, or the revised Magician or Barbarian.  There is something here new for you.
It is a great addition to any OSR game for a grittier, "us against the darkness" sort of game.
In terms of horror, it is the subtle creeping horror.  It is somewhere between Ravenloft (minus the camp and cliches) and Call of Cthulhu.  Though unlike those games which has the implication of "looking for trouble" in C&T trouble comes for you.

Honestly almost everything you need to know about C&T is on that cover.  A magician and barbarian fighting snake-like lizard men.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery but ...

Not when you are imitating me on Wikipedia.
But it is funny.

So I was looking up some Scooby Doo episodes (I have kids, I am allowed) and I discovered that much of the "information" on the Hex Girls actually came from my blog here.

 I'd go in and change it, but frankly I am too busy and find I don't honestly care.   In truth I find it a bit amusing and I am kind of curious to see if anyone else catches it.

Thorn is as confused as I am.
Yeah, yeah I am obsessed with a band that doesn't exist and are secondary characters in a cartoon.

Well at least these guys get me. ;)

Monday Monday

So nothing really to post or chat about today.

The day job is kicking my butt this week.  Our next Summer term starts next week so I am busy getting ready all this week.

In game news I am re-reading "The Silmarillion" for the first time since high school.  I am loving it and enjoying it on a completely different level than I did 30 years ago.  It's just fantastic really.  I had just finished reading "The Children of Húrin" and loved it.

I should have some game reviews up sometime.

Something interesting.
Tenkar has a post about advertising and marketing the OSR.   Go over there read his post, watch the video.

Me. I am happy with beer money (I make enough at my day job to pay bills and get the things I want).  Or rather, I use the money I make to buy more games or material for new game books.  It's a crazy little eco-system that I am happy with.

Maybe something will motivate me later today.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Zatannurday: Theater Posters

With maybe the exception of Clark Kent, we see Zatanna at her job or around it as much as her superheroics.

So it is no surprise then there is a lot of art associated with her "day job" (which is actually more at night).

I'd love to have one of these as a print for my game room.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Spellcraft & Swordplay Summer Sale!

Elf Lair Games (who also publish The Witch) are holding a summer sale.  You can get their core rules product Spellcraft & Swordplay for half price and PDF thrown in!

Spellcraft & Swordplay is a "what if" game. It uses the original combat resolution from 0e and the best of the OGL to create a new game with an old school feel.  It is one my favorite old-school games to be honest.  I own a hard copy and the limited edition boxed set.  All you need is this book, some friends and a couple of d6s for everyone.

If you have been curious about this game then this is the time to get it.

TBBYANR: Old School Plus

I enjoy Old-School gaming blogs for a couple of reasons. First is most of them like going over the roots of the hobby, talking about how things were not just out of the dreaded "N-Word" (Nostalgia) but more of an academic foray into games and the applications of those games.  Sure the the is a bad signal to noise ratio at times with many blogs covering the exact same ground in the exact same way (and this blog is no exception to that) I am still entertained.   Also the authors tend to be from the same gene-pool as me; metaphorically speaking.  Not that I always want to listen to a bunch of middle aged white guys, but their interests are the same as mine; so if it veers "off-topic" into family, jobs, kids what have you, I don't mind.  In fact most times I am nodding in agreement.

A couple of these Old-School+ blogs are the subject of todays The Best Blog You are Not Reading.

Billy Goes to Mordor

Billy Goes to Mordor has to win some sort of prize for the blog name that always makes me smile.  Plus any blog that can put up a still from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal and not get all maudlin about it is doing something right.  Around since 2011 and hitting half a dozen or so posts a month you can read through all his posts in a dedicated afternoon.  There are thoughts on D&D, Horror and playing Pirates.  Though I think his notes on Game Design are the most interesting.  Insight on how another guy does his game.
A lot of thought goes into each post and really I think he is just a few dedicated followers (and regular commenters) away from really growing as a blog.  Or maybe it is fine the way it is, but I bet some more followers would be appreciated all the same.

The Disoriented Ranger

Another Old-School blog around since 2011.  This is a solidly OSR blog with links to free resources and notes on his RC based game.  There are a lot of world building articles with his recent ones exploring "Karik Thel - The Island of the Floating Trees" which could easily be used anywhere so very much worth the read.
What got me into his blog was the day we both posted the same Racial Class within minutes of each other, Feline Humanoids vs. Cat Girls (I think it is easy to tell on name alone which is mine).  In truth combining the two would make for a great class!
Like Billy, JD also posts more than just gaming material.

I would encourage you to check both blogs out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Do you Remember This?

Do you remember this ad?

Pretty much sums up popular culture's romance with S&S.

So how many of you cut that ad out of Playboy er Popular Science and taped it to a folder?
Better yet, who among you based a character on her.

ETA my contribution:

Made around 85 or 86.

White Dwarf Wednesday #69

White Dwarf for September 1985 takes us to the end of the 60s with issue #69.  This one is going to be interesting to try to do because my copy is falling apart.  In fact I have it in a bag to hold it all together. When I started this I wanted to see if I could find a new copy and then forgot about it till just recently.   I am not even using my own scanned image of the cover. It is in too bad of shape. The cover is an interesting one. It looks like it could be the demon Graz'zt.  Or someone similar. The artist is Mark Bromley.

Ian Livingstone discusses Games Day.  Here in reality Origins just completed. I had heard from friends that it  was great fun but really small this year.

We start of with an article on Golden Heroes.  Man, I really should dig this game up sometime.

Part 2 of Beneath the Waves is next.  I am missing page 1 of this.  I think it was due to the fact that we were gearing up an ocean based game.  But I could be wrong, 85 sounds too early for that.

Open Box has some reviews that I can relate to.  First are some Marvel titles. MH-4: Lone Wolves, MH-5: Cat's Paw and MHSP1: Secret Wars.  I will be honest with you. I didn't like Secret Wars.  I thought it was a pale attempt to get at the same epicness of DC Crisis on Infinite Earths.  I was even just telling my kids this yesterday morning.  I was getting out of Marvel at this point and out of the Marvel game.  Marcus Rowland gives them 6, 6 and 7/10 respectively.
Next up is the Conan RPG.  Unlike my peers I never liked Conan. It wasn't even till recently that I actually read some.  I liked it because yes it is good stuff, but in 85? No way. I was an Elric (the anti-Conan) fan. Pete Tamblyn gives it 7/10.
We get a review of Toon Strikes Again, a completely silly game that I loved. So did Stephen Kyle who gave it 8/10.    Lastly we have the Chill-influenced board game Black Morn Manor. I had always wanted to play this game but never could get my hands on a copy.  It got an 8/10 from Paul Mason.

Letters and RuneRites are gone according to my table of contents.

The Surrey Egnigma is an adventure for Call of Cthulhu that looks fun.
Followed by an AD&D adventure Plague from the Past that also looks like it could be fun.

Starbase has ship battle damage for Traveller and Travellers has stats for more of its characters.

Fiend Facotry is back this month but the "monsters" are Golden Hero characters. Yeah, it's not as fun anymore.

First page of Table top heroes is gone, but there are pictures.

Treasure chest has some poisons for AD&D.  Not quite as good as the article from Best of Dragon Vol. 2, but still worth the read if poisons are your thing.

Gobilidgook, small ads and ads.

The 60s end in a whimper though I do think both adventures are good.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

For those that say Mystara is dead

There is this,

Ok, so yeah, it's not the same as having a game world or new product but it does show that Wizards is still interested in the IP and they still use it.

Either way I'll be buying this.

Skills in AD&D 1

I got to play some AD&D 1st ed again this past weekend.  The boys are really enjoying it.
But the one thing that now feels awkward are ability checks.

Back in the day if we wanted to do something that would require a "skill check" we would roll a d20 and aim to roll under the ability in question.  Easy and it worked for us till the 1st ed Proficiency system came along.

Looking back I remembered something.  I hate the 1st Ed Proficiency system.

I think what I want is something more simple.  AD&D isn't really about what skills and how many skill points you have.  Your skills are defined by your class or race and Ability scores are key.

So I am thinking of taking some ideas from d20, Castles & Crusades and even a little bit of D&D4.

Skill checks will still be Ability checks.
Instead of the roll under mechanic, I am going to use a d20 style Difficulty Classes. Since 3.x d20 and AD&D1 make the similar assumption of 20 levels I think the numbers are good.

Abilities will use their default modifiers.  So 0 +1, +2 or +3 (or negatives as the case may be).  Additionally characters will add +1 per level.  I *might* cap that at 10th level.  I have not decided yet.

Borrowing from Castles and Crusades each character will get two Primes.  These will be the same as the Prime Attribute for their class. Humans will get one extra. Primes will add +2.

So a skill roll then would be like this.
A 1st level Cleric with an 18 Wisdom is making a Spot check.  Wisdom is his prime.
His chances are +3 (wisdom) +1 (level) +2 (prime) for a total of +6.
That might sound like a lot, but a Cleric in 3.x with Spot as a skill would get +4 Wis and +4 for the skill for +8.

I might also give each character a chance at a signature or trained skill.  Something very specific that they get and extra +1 on.  So my cleric in the above example might have Religion as a signature skill, and get an extra +1.

I think this will work fine to be honest.  Course if I wanted that "old school" feel I could put it all in a chart.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Birthday/Gameday/Father's Day Weekend!

Wow! What freaking great weekend this has been.

We started it off by going to see Man of Steel (most of the "Smallville" were shot in Yorkvillle, IL near where my wife grew up) and it was a lot of fun.  Not sure if it replaces the Richard Donner films in my heart, but it was still good.

Saturday was Free RPG Day.

We piked up some cool books and bought some more.

We were going to play some Tomb of Horrors under 3.x but my youngest one wanted to play some of the free things we bought.  So we settled on continuing our 1st Ed game where the characters are still around 2nd level and continued on in the Caves of Chaos.

I thought I'd pull in some material from the free stuff to help flesh out the cave some more.

Yes.  There is a good chance that my young sons will play "Better Than Any Man".

Might get some more gaming done later tonight.  They cleared out the Goblin Cave ("D") and started on the Hobgoblin Cave ("E").

Great weekend!  I even got in a 3 mile run today.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Zatannurday: Happy Father's Day!

Here is what looks like Zatara's first appearance in the new DC 52.

Kind of a downer image...

How about something from pre-52, Zatara going Liam Neeson in Taken on a bad guy.

Don't piss off Giovanni.

I might need to up some of the stats I have made for him.

Happy Father's Day!!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Winners, Losers and the Tomb

Wow!  What a day yesterday.  All I wanted to do was celebrate my birthday and give out some free stuff. ;)

Well I have emailed the two winners, I am just waiting for them to confirm their emails.  (ok both have gotten back to me!)

So congrats to John Harp and Michael Bolam!  You can thank the d20 and d6 I rolled!

Honestly that was a lot of fun and I need an excuse to do that again soon.

The big loser of the week is (or will be) Tracey Alley for publishing Mystara books.
I did not set out to ruin her week but seriously folks, IP is IP is IP.

I have seen a lot of comments of "well WotC isn't doing anything with it".  Sorry, but there is no such thing as "Abondon-ware" in fact the Mystara property is alive and kicking with the release of the "Dungeons & Dragons Chronicles of Mystara Game" out next week.
Or even "She is not making a lot of money on it". The amount made (lots, little or none) doesn't matter.  I bought those books (but got a refund) because I thought they were official Mystara books. There are lots of people that would love to make more Mystara products, people that I would love to support.  But they don't make them because they know they are not allowed too.

Of course the other loser in this is me.  I thought I had found a new series to read and instead I have to drag all this out into the light.

The Tomb
The best news though is for my birthday and Father's day I am going to play some D&D with my kids!  YEAHH!

Since it is also D&D day I think a classic is in order.   So Liam and Connor will be headed to The Tomb of Horrors!

I have copies for every version of D&D (well 1st to 4th) so I am not sure which system to run it yet.  1st ed is the obvious choice, but the boys are playing 3e now and their 1st ed characters are only 1st level.

I am expecting it to be a lot of fun!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

UGH. Do we have to do this one again?? IP theft, Part 2

Here is a comparison of the map from Tracey Alley's book and the map from the Expert set.

Tracey's map

The Known World from the Expert Set

And both at 50% opacity.

So not just redrawn, but maybe even traced.

In better news I am going to pick winners later tonight!

UGH. Do we have to do this one again?? IP theft

Before I go too deep here if you want to wish me a happy birthday and win a prize, go to this thread.  If you want to see me rage against the machine some more stay here.

Still with me?  Ok.

For the record I want you to know that I was not setting out to do this. I just wanted a nice little novel about Mystara and witches to read.  Been on a great Mystara kick all week.

So I treated myself to a bunch of books on my Amazon wishlist for my birthday.  Three of them were the "Witchcraft Wars" series.  I am not sure how I found them but all I knew about them that they dealt with the rise of Witchcraft in the Mystara game world.  So perfect for me right?
The cover art looked a little off from other Mystara books, but they were new and I thought that maybe WotC was trying something new.

That's not the case.

I was so excited that the first book was free for the Kindle that I grabbed it and the next two books.
You can get it too so you can see what I mean.

There was a map inside. I was quite excited to see it to be honest. I saw Glantri..right next to Karameikos and way north of Alfheim (on the coast)

Wait. What??

I then noticed that the publisher was NOT Wizards of the Coast or Mirror Stone but "Amazon Publishing Services".

A closer dig into the other books from this author, Tracey Alley, revealed more books and two with some pretty blatant art theft.

Here are the books in question:
The Witchcraft Wars, Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3
A Very Hairy Adventure - A Kaynos History Tale with Clyde Caldwell art from a WW Werewolf game.
An Unholy Encounter (The History Tales of Kaynos) with art from an October 1988  issue of Dragon magazine.

There is a long discussion about it that I started last night over at the Facebook Mystara group.

But here are my point.  I bought all three books because 1. they were set in Mystara and 2. they were well reviewed. So I do feel a little like I was ripped off. I thought these were something like those "Dragon Codex" books from Mirrorstone; novels that take place in Krynn but are not part of Dragonlance (but still published by Wizards).
I mean really. A novel set in Mystara about the rise of Witchcraft? Why not just call it "Tim Read This Damn book Now!"
If you ignore the map it reads like a Mystara book. She has a Vestlander that used to be a Monk and is now a Druid. There are half-orcs that speak Hill giant. There are elves and dwarves, The writing isn;t bad, it's not great either, but I didn't mind paying whatever I paid for them BECAUSE I thought I was sending a message to WotC that Mystara books are a good idea.
Thankfully Amazon let me return the last two books of the series for a full refund.

I have started to reach out to people at Wizards, but no response yet (no surprise it's like 6:00am there now).  This is not how I wanted to spend my birthday.

Here are some links.
Her website/blog,
Amazon page,

I should just stick with reading witch books where the witch gets pregnant by her lesbian lover.   After all, I have a reputation to maintain.

ETA: Part 2 is here.

Happy Birthday to Me! Here's a Gift for You!

Today is my birthday!

The great thing about being this age is I am pretty much at the point where if there is something I want I go out and get it.  So all I asked for this year was some time to play some D&D with my kids.

But someone needs a gift.

To celebrate this and recently reaching 1,000,000 hits I want to thank you my loyal readers.

Here's the deal.  I am gong to give away a $5 DriveThruRPG gift car and a $5 Amazon gift card.

What do you need to do to get it?
Almost nothing!
Just post below!

Make sure I have a way of contacting you (email is best) and I'll pick two people at random.
That's it.

Post. Get lucky. Win.
I'll email you and you tell me which of the two prizes you want.

Thanks so much for making the Other Side as much as it has been and here's to the next 1,000,000 hits!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

White Dwarf Wednesday #68

White Dwarf continues to evolve here in the late summer of 1985.  We are now squarely in the issues where I have no personal connection with.  I wasn't reading WD anymore at this point, though I was heavily into Dragon at this point.  Also at this time I had pretty much dropped every other game I had played in favor of AD&D alone.

Our cover this time has some orcs and what could be a halfling or a small old human.  They are about to get ninja'd by a dude in the background.  I did say it was 1985.  This is another cover from Brian Williams.

Ian Livingstone discusses the data from the last reader survey.  People love the comics, which I don't get, but hey this thing is 28 years old now.  They also enjoy Open Box (which I do get).  Ian also mentions that WD subscriptions are on the rise.

Ok on to content.

First up is something we could use in the Old-school world now.  An Artificer character class for AD&D.
It's a pretty neat little class really and can help explain why the world has so many magic items.  What is nice is that was a way for dwarven characters to get some spells.  I am pretty certain I would have had at least one character using this class.

Open Box has a lot of products.  I think instead of talking about each one I'll focus on the ones that interest me.  There is a new Fantasy RPG called Dragonroar that I have never heard of.  It looks like what we call a Fantasy Heartbreaker.  It only gets 5/10 for being too narrow in scope and simple.  Maybe this why I have not heard of it.  The other game is Twilight 2000. It also only gets 5/10.  Now of course I knew about Twilight2k but I never played it.  I do recall years later picking up a copy at a game auction and it only confirmed what I had known for years.  I don't like Post Apoc games.  I like Gamma World and by extension Mutant Future, but so much in these games feels so contrived.  Plus I think I was reading it in 2002 so I rolled my eyes a lot and said "yeah. right" while reading it.
Interestingly enough there is a breakdown on what all the different aspects of the review mean.  Only about 60+ issues too late, but A for effort guys!

Nest is Critical Mass, an ad for the new TSR Conan game.

Crawling Chaos, another well liked article is next.  This time dealing with clergymen and hypnosis.
Beneath the Waves is a new series of dealing with aquatic adventures in AD&D.
Solo Adventures deals with running solo supers games.

The first adventure of the issue is Lone Dragon a scenario for Traveller.  It includes deck plans for the Lone Dragon.  These adventures are usually pretty hard for me to judge.  This is followed by The Travellers which has stats for two of the main characters.

The Star of Darkness is an AD&D adventure for 3rd to 4th level characters.  It uses the artificer class and would be a good introduction to the class.
Treasure chest has a lot of new spells.

While not an inspiring issue, certainly a serviceable one.  RuneQuest material has dropped off considerably but we have picked up more Call of Cthulhu which is nice.  AD&D continues to be popular though I despite my complaints on quality I do miss Fiend Factory.  

We are about to hit the 70s and 1986. My memory of this time tells me there was a lot going on publishing wise even if the industry was in the midst of a cool down period.  I'll see if the issues track with my recollections.

There was supposed to be a giant-sized poster with this issue.  My garage-sale copy is missing that.   Anyone know what it was?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Cut up My B/X books!

Well after 32 years I finally did it.

I sliced up my Basic and Expert books to put into a binder.
Er...sort of.
Instead I printed out my copies of the Basic and Expert books out on PDF.

I printed them a page to a side because my printer here at home can't do dual sided.

Rearranged them by chapters.

And put some tabs in.

So far it looks really nice.  No cover yet, need to buy more ink.

OSR Specific Publishers?

Hey all!

I am working on a few side projects and it dawned on me that I am not 100% certain who all the players are in the OSR publishing biz.

Sure I know the big names. Even some of the smaller names.  But who else is there?

In particular I was looking for the smaller publishers to see what they are doing.  Maybe even feature a couple now and then here.

So. Who are you?  What do you sell?  If you are a small publisher then let me (and everyone else) know!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

1,000,000 Other Side Views Can't Be Wrong

I want to do a bit of celebrating here at the Other Side.

I just went past 1,000,000 hits here and had a pretty successful fundraiser.
Plus it's my birthday in a couple days.

Let's do something special.

I am going to give away some things.

Not sure what, not sure how, but something. and soon!

Keep an eye out.

(if you don't get the image, try here)

Basic D&D + Xacto Knife!

One of the things I always found interesting was that the Moldvay Basic and Cook Expert books were 3-hole punched.   The idea was to cut up your rule books and then re-assemble them in a binder.

While I liked this idea and thought I would do it once the Companion rules came out, I never could bring myself to cut up my rulebooks.

Now with the Basic and Expert books out on PDF I might print them up and do this.

Did anyone do this back in the day? How did it work out for you?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ravenloft / Glantri connection

This post might not be all that interesting (I know the WRONG way to start a post) but I have been digging up some old information on an old campaign I ran at the end of the 2nd ed era.

Many, many years ago while I was still deeply involved in the online Ravenloft community I postulated that Barovia, the home of Strahd in Ravenloft, is a domain taken from the Known World of Mystara, and Glantri in particular.
I was very active on the old MYSTARA-L and RAVENLOFT-L listservs.

Here is a post from 2001 where I talk about it.  This might be the first time I even mention it.

Hold on a sec I have my combined Ravenloft-Mystrara-Greyhawk Time line here.

Now keep in mind that Ravenloft has funky time.  So Ravenloft uses the
Barovian Calendar (BC) and the present day is 751 (according to the books)
or 753 (according to the kargatane).  That would make it 1,346 AC.  On *my*
time line.
This also coincides with 1,370 DR in the Realms (but who cares about that!).

I am correlating my dates based on the "fact" that the two Blackmoors are
the same in Greyhawk and Mystara and were destroyed at the same time,
possibly splitting Mystara and Oerth (and D&D from AD&D!).  Then I use
Azalin from Ravenloft since we know when he entered the mists and when he
was a king on Greyhawk.

Barovia is founded in "an unknown world" in year 1 BC, or 596 AC.  So what
areas were still ripe for conquest or settlement then?
Strahd is born in 299 BC (894 AC)
The "Tergs" invade Barovia 320 BC (915 AC)
Strahd pushes them back 321 BC (916 AC)
Strahd kills his family, Barovia is "cloned" and sucked into the demi plane
351 BC (946 AC).

So the world that Barovia is from, never knows it is gone since an exact
copy with out people is left behind.  Well, some of Strahd's family remains.

800 AC to 1000 AC is a fairly well documented period of time.

Castle Amber (X2) has some amazing "Ravenloft like" elements.  After all,
Old Averoigne *IS* from Gothic Earth! ;)
As does the Glantri Gazetteer.
Other modules from Mystara also have a very heavy Ravenloft feel to them,
more so than other worlds ("Death's Ride" anyone?)

There is an adventure where the character go to the Prime Material Barovia
around 740 BC (or 1,335 AC). Barovia of this time and place is rules by a
"King Strahd".

If I go with my "Holy Lands of Glantri"  future Time line, 1,335 is a blank
period of time for me. A time between the "true" kings in which a regent sat
on the throne.  It was an attempt by the mage guild to bring back the rule
of the Princes.  They had assassinated the true king and his heirs, but one
escaped not to be "discovered" again till 1,496 AC.

SO, given my time line, I'd say Barovia is/was a principality of Glantri.
Granted this is not conclusive evidence, but it fills the holes I have.

What else do we have?

Web Warlock,
Author, the Netbooks of Witches and Warlocks
The Other Side:
The DnD Community Council:
Yeah I was still going by "Web Warlock" online all the time is a vain attempt to keep my academic persona (Timothy S. Brannan) seperate from my gamer geek one.  Finally I said screw it and embraced my inner and outer geek.

There is more here and elsewhere.  With James Mishler online now I should ask him what his theories were.

Here is something I posted years ago that I can't find the original of online anymore.  Though it was quoted at Dragonsfoot.  I have the original Word doc here at home still.
Barovia is from Mystara
While Ravenloft may be my favorite game world, it is not my first. No that (dubious) honor belongs to Mystara. So here is how I have used my two worlds together. We really don't know what world Strahd's homeland came from. Other lands are clearly defined as being from Oerth (Greyhawk), Toril (Forgotten Realms), Athas (Dark Sun) or Krynn (Dragonlance). That leaves both Barovia and Mystara obvious by their absence. So. I speculate that Barovia is a darker version of one the Principalities of Glantri. Of course this long before the Princes ruled. We know that from the adventure "Roots of Evil" that the original Barovia still remains on it's home world. Well Glantri has a principality called Boldavia that is surprisingly like Barovia. It is possible that they were nieghbors, but when Strahd and his Barovia was pulled into the mists, the lord of Boldavia took over the unprotected Barovia.

There are plenty of other clues of a Ravenloft-Mystara link.

The classic module, X2 Castle Amber, takes place in Glantri and the module reads like a proto-Ravenloft setting complete with mists and lands being pulled into demi-planes. X2 was based on the writings of Clark Ashton Smith, one of Lovecraft's inner circle, and both writers have contributed a lot to what makes up D&D and Ravenloft today.

Glantri has a very European feel to it. It is higher tech and higher magic than most of the other lands on Mystara and there is definantly a darker edge to it. Since Ravenloft also uses psuedo-European cultures, the ties fit rather nicely.

Demi-Plane or World
Ravenloft is a demi-plane. Or so they tell us. But this has never been a satifactory world for me. In my mind this only emphasizes the "weekend in Hell" feel of the world. So. With the latest edition of the Ravenloft rules, I have decided that Ravenloft is in fact it's own world. Granted it is a haunted world, but not much different than the "World of Darkness" of White Wolf. This has certain advantages for me. Worlds are easier to deal with. I can have a place that can seem real to it inhabitants and give me a reason to have native players. Plus if I want, I can use my Call of Cyhulhu, White Wolf, or Witchcraft RPG stuff to modernize the world, or give it a future. This is what I liked best about Gothic Earth. With 3E Ravenloft I could do a Gothic Mystara or a Gothic Oerth.

Personally I rather move the lot to Earth. But that is a topic for another time.

Plus this helps bring other ideas from the Ravenloft-list into line for me. Ravenloft has a mostly human population, but there are monsters. So a world can support a larger ecosystem. Monsters can run about. Another idea is move the mind flayers, Illithids, to the moon. This give them a more alien feel and ties in very nicely with Lovecraft. Plus I have the new d20 Call of Cthulhu book sitting on my self next to my Ravenloft one. So I am sure I can get something from their unholy union.

Another idea to flesh out this "world" is to use some of the new d20 products out there. Sword and Sorcery studios has some great books, like the Creature Collections and Relics and Rituals. The Scarred Lands of those books has the dark and gritty feel I like to inject into my games. I also have a few good official Wizards of the Coast products that also make a nice addition. Monsters of Faerun is a good example.

The Dark Powers
Who or what are the dark powers and what do they wnat? That is question that has been bugging players and DM of Ravenloft for a long time. We have had some clues. They could be evil outsiders, or gods. Or they could be Good and Ravenloft is a prison. Or maybe they started out as good and became evil. Who knows. The truth be told. I don't deal with them much in my games. While I dislike the idea of Ravenloft being a giant roach motel of evil, I also like to keep the players and the Dark Lords in check.

Plus there are the Dark Lords. Very powerful, not very mobile. I like to use a bit more flexibility with my Dark Lords and Powers. Granted this has not always worked out as well as I would have liked. But I'll keep experimenting. Normally I like to take a page out of the Masque of Red Death and not have Dark Lords at all. Or rather, they are there, but they are significantly weaker when they leave their area of control.

No Dragons?
How is it there are no dragons in Ravenloft, a Dungeons and Dragons game? Well I have added them. Yes they are evil and there is even a Dragon dark lord. The realm is Draconis, and it is also from Mystara. It is currently an island. It too has it's roots in Glantri. You can download it from Draconis.

If I continue the world metaphor then there are plenty of places for Dragon Dark Lords and Dragons. While Draconis is based on Glantri, it has it roots in the mystical "Dragon Isle" of so many fantasy stories, including the tales of Michael Moorcock's Elric.

BTW I still have Draconis laying around here somewhere.  I reused large portions of it for my Dragon Ilse in my kids 3.x game.

I'll have to see what else I have laying around.